In Canada, suicide is the second highest cause of death for youth aged 10-24. Each year, on average, 300 youths die from suicide. Many more attempt suicide. Aboriginal teens and gay and lesbian teens may be at particularly high risk, depending on the community they live in and their own self esteem.
Suicide is a complex process. The cause can seldom be attributed to one single factor, such as the death by suicide of a rock star or family break-up. It may be a routine event or an overwhelming one that overloads a vulnerable youth’s coping mechanisms. As well, new research suggests that there may be a genetic link to suicide. A family history of suicidal behavior should be taken into account, if for no other reason than the young person may have been affected by this behavior in the past.
Suicidal youth rarely make a direct plea for help, but most will exhibit warning signs. Here are some of these signs:
Myth: Talking about suicide will give a young person the idea, or permission, to consider suicide as a solution to their problems.
Reality: Talking calmly about suicide, without showing fear or making judgments, can bring relief to someone who is feeling terribly isolated. A willingness to listen shows sincere concern; encouraging someone to speak about their suicidal feelings can reduce the risk of an attempt.
Myth: Suicide is sudden and unpredictable.
Reality: Suicide is most often a process, not an event. Eight out of ten people who die by suicide gave some, or even many indications of their intentions.
Myth: Suicidal youth are only seeking attention or trying to manipulate others.
Reality: Efforts to manipulate or grab attention are always a cause for concern. It is difficult to determine if a youth is at risk of suicide All suicide threats must be taken seriously.
Myth: Suicidal people are determined to die.
Reality: Suicidal youth are in pain. They don’t necessarily want to die; they want their pain to end. If their ability to cope is stretched to the limit, or if problems occur together with a mental illness, it can seem that death is the only way to make the pain stop.
Myth: A suicidal person will always be at risk.
Reality: Most people feel suicidal at some time in their lives. The overwhelming desire to escape from pain can be relieved when the problem or pressure is relieved. Learning effective coping techniques to deal with stressful situations can help.
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